Peach orchard - high density spacing

Hi everyone! I am in Monroe, NC and have two peach orchard plantings.

One is going on second leaf with 215 peach trees and second planting is 1350 peach trees and is brand new (just planted last month)!

My spacing is tight and I’m sure I’ll get many opinions. I have a few at 8x20 (these were the first I planted and I planted them way too tight) and the rest of the first planting are 10x20. There’s an orchard about an hour from me that’s 10ft between trees and they do well so I’m not too concerned.

The new planting is 12ft between trees and 20ft rows. I went wider just to be safe as this will be a dedicated u pick orchard.

My plan is to prune to a modified open center design so I can still do all the work from the ground.


Considering all the population moving to Union Co you should have plenty of potential customers.
Good luck on the venture.


Thank you! I’m the only orchard here in the area and definitely the only u pick orchard. We’re super excited and can’t wait to get selling peaches.


Hi Keith. Welcome.

When I started my orchard, I inquired about peach planting density. I really didn’t get a solid answer. That’s because some growers seem to make any density work. Even peach guru Jerry Frecon gave me this answer, “I could take you to orchards with 16’ row spacing. When trees are heavily laden with fruit, you can hardly walk down the rows. I see the growers drive equipment through these blocks and break limbs, knock off and bruise fruit but he does not worry about it because he says he is picking up to
1200 bushels per acre at this close spacing and high vigor.”

I don’t know what a modified open center pruning method is, but you will definitely have a lot of pruning to do with high density planting.

I ended up using a low density planting (about 100 trees per acre) and I’m glad I did. I had previous experience in my one acre yard that mature peach trees 20’ apart would give little room to drive between them with a riding mower.

I knew I would have to make room for larger equipment with a commercial orchard, so I ended up spacing my trees 18’ apart in the row, and 25’ between rows. I’ll admit the 25’ between rows is a wide spacing for most commercial peach orchards, but even at this we still have to keep an eye on the pruning to make sure the trees don’t creep into the rows too far, else the equipment will knock fruit off. At 18’ apart in the rows, we have to cut the trees back, so they don’t grow into each other. I will mention, peach trees here tend to be very vigorous, in this soil, so it’s hard to keep them contained.

Quite a few people on this forum use much tighter spacing than that. The problem translating that to a commercial orchard, is that home growers don’t count their labor, because it’s a labor of love.

In commercial orchards, labor is a big deal, so you’ll want to try to minimize it. You won’t have time to “fuss” over your trees all summer, so ease of pruning becomes paramount. High density peach systems work, but are not conducive to easy pruning.

Part of the problem is that peaches, in an open vase system, naturally have the most productive fruiting zone toward the outside, or upwards (if you let them). It’s generally not practical to let a peach tree grow upwards, so the alternative is outside.

Trying to keep the tree somewhat constrained from growing outward makes it hard to keep those outward zones productive as the tree matures. It’s a lot of pruning just to keep the trees at pedestrian height (which is paramount, imo - especially so for a Upick orchard) it’s even more difficult to try to keep them contained within a tight horizontal area, at the same time. It can be done, it’s just harder.

Your trees may not be as vigorous in NC, so it may not be as big of an issue there.

Here is what Desmond Layne (respected guru) has to say about it:

I’d see how vigorous your trees are in your soil. If you have problems with overcrowding in your first planting, I’d recommend cutting every other tree out, so the spacing is 16’ or 20’ between trees. They do this with pecan orchards. Plant to twice the recommended planting density, then come in after so many years and thin the orchard to the recommended density.


Congratulations on your new project. 1500 peach trees is a lot!

12 feet between the trees would be tight based on my experience in Guilford County, NC if you plan to work 100% from the ground.


Thank you for the response! The first planting of 215 peach trees are on our home property so I can easily walk outside to get work done on the orchard. The second planting is around 15 minutes from me so not too bad.

The thought process was to have more profit up front (which is what I’ve read is true with the higher density plantings) but I am expecting it to be tight. Luckily I’ve seen 10ft spacing in a more upright pruning style at 11ft tall as well as have seen the same grower with the 10ft spacing lower at 8ft max height and all of the work from the ground. The grower said it’s just being sure to prune enough over the winter. Also noted it’s nice so when you start losing trees down the road your not going to lose as much money as some growers would if they had planted more spaced out.

I do have a narrow orchard tractor so not too concerned with working in the tunnel to spray and such.

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We do 15 x 20 for our peach orchard.


Tighter spacing would be great when PTSL hits! We liked the high density peaches we saw in VA and Colorado but the trees were pretty tall. In Colorado I saw a lot of pictures of folks working in the peaches from sheetrock stilts. Looked really uncomfortable but it must work well since I saw Peach trees everywhere.

I would love to try some trees on tighter space but we have had problems managing the vigor at 18X16.

Not sure why but the higher density plantings at the research farm in the Sandhills did not look good. Very interested to hear how the tighter spacing works in your location.


Any issues at the 15ft spacing?

I’m in clay soil here. I’m interested to know why the Sandhills high density trees didn’t do well. I do know they have some challenges in the sand there such as nematodes and seems their nutrients just drain away quickly due to the sand as well as the constant need for irrigation.

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I’m in the Triad, near Kernersville, and just a backyard grower. My trees are at 10.5 x 10.5 and it’s hard when they bend low with peaches is all. My scaffolds are stiffening up more now, but I probably would have trained them a bit more upright or something.

I’m on clay and granite/quartz mixed there in my orchard. So it’s “sandier” (really still rock) than our usual clay.

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No. I keep mine pruned open center and pretty wide. Some 10 year old trees started overlapping but I pruned them.


Such a well kept orchard Jeff. I don’t know how you are able to keep it looking so beautiful.

Off topic, but wanted to ask, what are you using for your weed control strip under your peach trees?

Here’s an old pic of our orchard when I got an airblast sprayer stuck. Beautiful isn’t it, lol.



I can chime in for weed control. I keep my orchards very well kept and bare under the tree canopy. There’s a ton of choices but for the first few years rely 280 post emergent and Tuscany pre emergent work well. There’s many choices but these are great. If you have bermudagrass creeping in it’s hard to keep out but with a lot of spraying with ornanec over the top.

I don’t know how well they compare for bermudagrass control but about equal for japanese stiltgrass and a few others I’ve fought. Fusilade II vs Ornamec that is… One thing I did notice is that even though Fusilade costs more, it goes a lot further… Only .75fl oz per gallon of water compared to 10fl oz of Ornamec (spot spray label instructions). I also don’t know if one is safer around edible fruit than the other… If not, you might want to check out Fusilade II.

I’ve used both but only used ornamec on non bearing trees. It’s not labeled for bearing trees.

I spray with the unmentionable that 50% of the posters on here are probably against using. Here’s the deal though…we use Mankar hand held sprayers with hoods that are very efficient and use less product when spraying. There is absolutely no drift. It is a very labor intensive effort that we do once in early summer and sometimes spot treat for late summer grasses.

Wow…can’t believe the wet land you had to deal with in that pic. We installed a network of underground drainage that really helped our orchard dry out quicker…it is very heavy clay but thankfully does have a slight pitch. looks like all of your trees are mounded?

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I’m assuming you mean roundup as the unmentionable?

Folks in NC use it heavily mainly due to it being cheaper and it doesn’t move within the soil (stays where it is sprayed). If you ever move to a tractor sprayer check out the weed boom by Phil brown welding.


We have clay soil in my area and we have our trees humped up. Not as much as the photo with the sprayer stuck though but enough to get the water away from the root zones.


Our new planting from above.


What our existing planting looks like (well a portion of it at least). We have 215 peach trees on our first planting.